Appeals court upholds Georgia's six-week abortion ban
Abortion rights defenders on Wednesday were down but determined after a federal appeals court lifted an injunction on Georgia's six-week abortion ban, allowing the draconian law to take immediate effect.
Writing for a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge William Pryor said that the U.S. Supreme Court's recent Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization ruling voiding nearly 50 years of constitutional abortion rights "makes clear that no right to abortion exists under the Constitution, so Georgia may prohibit them."
Pryor—a George W. Bush appointee who once called Roe v. Wade "the worst abomination in the history of constitutional law"—added that "it is hard to see any vagueness" in H.B. 481, the 2019 Georgia anti-choice law that "defines a natural person to include unborn humans in the womb at any stage of development."
While Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said he was "overjoyed" by the ruling, state Sen. Michelle Au (D-48), who is also a physician, tweeted, "What this means is that in Georgia, patients sitting in a waiting room RIGHT NOW, waiting for abortion care that was legal just this morning when they arrived, now have lost their right to that medical care and control over their own bodies."
"Just like that," she added. "Gone."
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports:
Georgia's new law is different from other states' "heartbeat" statutes because it includes so-called personhood provisions, where rights are extended to an embryo once fetal cardiac activity can be detected. Parents would be able to claim a fetus, once a heartbeat is detected, on their state income taxes as a dependent, and the measure would also require state officials to count an unborn child toward Georgia's population. Mothers can also file for child support once cardiac activity is detected.
Experts have noted that fetal "heartbeat" laws are inherently flawed, as what's being detected in a six-week-old fetus is little more than cells and electrical activity.
Earlier this month, a federal judge blocked enforcement of Arizona's so-called "personhood" law.
The implementation of Georgia's six-week ban comes as an effort to codify reproductive rights nationwide via the House-approved Women's Health Protection Act has stalled amid opposition from Senate Republicans and right-wing Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
Planned Parenthood Southeast vice president of external affairs Amy Kennedy said in a statement that Wednesday's ruling is "an affront to our personal rights and goes against the will of the vast majority of Georgians who believe in the bodily autonomy of all in our state."
"The people have just been robbed of their ability to make the decisions that are best for themselves, their lives, and their futures," Kennedy continued. "No matter what the courts say, people deserve access to abortion—and Planned Parenthood is here to help you get the care you need. We remain committed to helping Georgians access abortion care, and our doors are open for nonjudgmental information, resources, and financial and logistical support."
The ACLU called the appellate court's move "unprecedented."
"The court took this action without request from the state and outside of normal court procedures," the group tweeted. "Many people don't even know they're pregnant at six weeks. People in Georgia—and people everywhere—deserve access to abortion care without delay or interference."
"We'll continue using every tool we have to fight for abortion access in Georgia," ACLU vowed. "No one should be forced to carry a pregnancy against their will."
Planned Parenthood Federation of America affirmed: "We're here with you, Georgia. We will do everything in our power to ensure all patients... have access to the essential care they deserve. If you need an abortion, call 1-800-230-PLAN or visit http://AbortionFinder.org."
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